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Epoque EHD-900 Ai Underwater Camera Kit - Performance and Results
While the EHD-900 Ai housing is extremely well made and works very well, the camera inside it is unfortunately a very different story. One reason the combined kit is so cheap is that the camera is a generic 9-megapixel 3x zoom OEM Chinese product with no brand name, that on its own would probably sell for around £40, and even at that price it wouldn't be worth buying. It is, without a doubt, one of the worst cameras I have ever seen. It is extremely slow, taking around six seconds to start up and take a picture, and it has a shot-to shot time averaging around four seconds, although that largely depended on whether or not it would focus.
The AF system barely deserves the name. It is very slow, taking around two seconds to focus and often failing to do so even in good light, but worse still is its low light performance. In a room lit with an 80w bulb in one of those cheap wire-and-paper spherical lampshades, most digital cameras will have no problem focusing on normal objects in the room. This camera kept producing a “Low Light!” warning even when pointed directly at the lampshade. For a camera that is supposed to operate in the low-light environment 45m down in the ocean it is utterly hopeless. Its only redeeming feature is a macro focusing distance of around 5cm, but in macro mode it won't focus at distances greater than 40cm. It has what purports to be a smart scene recognition mode, but this didn't actually appear to do anything.
The monitor screen is very small at 2.4 inches, with a resolution of about 115k and a very limited viewing angle. Oddly it does have a good anti-reflective surface, but this is not much consolation. The menu is also incredibly primitive. It has no manual ISO setting, no white balance, and it's not a massive surprise to discover that the limited range of scene modes does not include an underwater option. The picture quality is unremittingly awful, with massive over-compression, appalling lens distortion, chromatic aberration and corner blurring, low detail and washed-out colour. The few underwater pictures I was able to take were terrible, mostly because the camera simply wouldn't focus.
This is frankly tragic. The EHD-900 Ai housing is so good, would it really have hurt to add maybe £30 to the price and put in a better camera? Even among the brandless OEM Chinese products there are better cameras than this. As it stands it is simply not going to produce the kind of results you'd want after spending £200. You'd be far better off buying a cheap but cheerful £80 compact and putting it in the Seashell SS-1 case.
The Epoque EHD-900 Ai is a bizarre paradox; a very high quality waterproof case surrounding an absolutely appalling camera. Underwater performance is excellent, the design is unattractive but functional, however the resulting picture quality is extremely poor compared to even a budget compact. It may be relatively cheap, but it's a false economy.